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updated October 2020

cranberries for Christmas-21949_1920 from Pixabay

Fresh cranberries are available in stores from October through December. Enjoy these ruby jewels while can get them. Cranberries are great for holiday celebrations. Preserve some to savor and brighten meals and well after their season has past.

Food Safety reminders to Fight foodborne BACteria: Clean hands, sanitize kitchen utensils and work surfaces often. Separate raw meats, poultry, seafood, eggs and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross contamination, starting at the store in your shopping cart and grocery bags, through storage in your refrigerator and preparation in your kitchen. Read more at https://www.FoodSafety.gov

Store fresh cranberries in the refrigerator until you are ready to use to make your favorite cranberry dishes. There are many ways to use and preserve cranberries. Below are a selection of tips and recipes from the USDA and extension programs.

Fresh Cranberries

Excerpt from PennState Extension, Preserving Cranberries

  • Select berries that are brightly colored with a smooth, glossy and firm skin.
  • A fresh berry will “bounce” when dropped. Small air-filled chambers inside a cranberry cause the fruit to bounce and to float.
  • Discard cranberries that are shriveled, soft, wrinkled or have surface blemishes.
  • Fresh cranberries are usually good stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. If kept longer, you will find a gradual deterioration of quality with more soft or bruised berries.
  • Berries can be stored in the original packaging in the refrigerator crisper for up to four weeks.
Canning Cranberries

We recommend that you follow a research-tested recipe and the USDA-approved procedures when canning.

If you are new to canning or want a review of the principles of home canning or the steps to safely canning at home, read Chapter 1 of USDA "Complete Guide to Home Canning", 2015.

Steam canning is now approved for recipes designed and tested for boiling-water canners. Read the UCANR publication #8573, Guidelines for Safe Canning of Acid Foods in a Steam Canner.

UCANR, Resource for Recipes & Information lists a few of the many sources that we use, including the National Center for Home Food Preservation which has current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation.

The "So Easy to Preserve" recipes for canning Cranberries in syrup, Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Conserve are available on the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.

Clemson Cooperative Extension, Canning Gifts has a few more research-tested cranberry recipes (Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Orange Chutney, Spicy Cranberry Salsa) that would be great to have ready in your pantry or to give as gifts.
They also share advice about receiving canned food gifts.

Freezing Cranberries

Excerpt from University of Maine Extension, Let's Preserve Cranberries

Cranberry marketers promote placing the plastic bags of cranberries you buy directly in the freezer and using them without thawing—just running cold water over them to rinse them before using. The preferred method is to sort and wash the berries before freezing to eliminate any stems, leaves and bruised or soft berries.

  • Preparation
    Choose firm, deep-red berries with glossy skins. Stem and sort. Wash and drain. A salad spinner is an excellent tool to use to spin off excess moisture that will otherwise cause the skins to toughen and the berries to stick together in the container. Pack cranberries into freezer grade containers, label with date, leave headspace or freeze them first on a tray and then pack them into containers as soon as they are frozen. Remove as much air as possible from the container.
  • Storage (dry cranberries)
    To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0°F or below. Cranberries should be used within 12 months.

Excerpt from MSU Extension, Freezing Cranberries is Quick & Easy 

  • To pack the cranberries in a syrup pack, put the cranberries into a rigid freezer container, leaving a ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion of the berries. Cover the cranberries with a cold 50 percent syrup. To make the 50 percent syrup, measure four cups of granular sugar and dissolve in four cups of water. Stir the sugar into lukewarm water until all of the sugar is dissolved. The solution should be clear. Cool the syrup down before pouring over the cranberries. It takes between ½ to ⅔ cup of syrup per pint of fruit. A trick to keep the fruit submerged in the syrup is to crumple parchment or waxed paper on top of the cranberries, pushing the berries down under the syrup, before sealing the lid. Remember to leave a ½ inch head space. Label the container and freeze.
Drying Cranberries

Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington) Extension Publication PNW397 entitled "Drying Fruits and Vegetables" recommends a pretreating cranberries before dehydrating: dip in boiling water to crack the skin or syrup blanch. Expect to test shriveled fruit for dryness after 24 to 36 hours. This informative publication is available at https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/pnw397